Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Using Story to Teach ICT

Wow! I'm so excited!

What should be delivered to me this morning but, six beautiful copies of Using Story to Teach ICT ages 5-6. It is the first book in a series of four on teaching ICT in a creative, cross-curricular way and was published by Hopscotch Educational.

It is great being able to hold the books in my hand. This is the absolutely best things about being a full-time writer. I LOVE IT. Can you see my name on the cover?

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Colours Around Me

You know it has been five months since I updated my blog.

Five Months!!! A lot can happen in five months. I have had several new books published for a start. These are the covers for my Colours Around Me Series published by QED.There are four educational picture books in the series, aimed at 2-4 year olds and they are designed to help children recognise different colours in their own environment.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Oxford Literary Festival

On Mothers' Day, I travelled into Oxford on the train with my youngest son, Joseph, to see Candy Gourlay talk about her book at the Oxford Literary Festival. Candy's book, Tall Story, was shortlisted as one of Blue Peter's favourite stories in the Blue Peter Book Awards, along with Philip Reeve's, A Web of Air (Mortal Engines), and the overall winner, Dead Man's Cove by Lauren St John.

When we arrived the first thing we did was go and buy some cake, which was yummy. We then took a look around and met Christopher Lloyd. Not the actor but the author. He has written the What on Earth? Wallbook: From the Big Bang to the Present Day. The Wallbook features more than 1,000 pictures and captions that tell the story of the planet, life and people from the beginning of time to the present day. Christopher gave Joe a quiz to do. All the answers were somewhere on the giant Wallbook. We got about half-way through but, had to stop to go to Candy's Event.

(C) Sarah McIntyre

The session took place in Christ Church Hall, which is where they filmed the meal scenes for Harry Potter. It was a stunning place, very grand but also very cold. Whilst we were waiting for everyone to find a sit, who should arrive but, my friend Sarah McIntyre. She was doing an event later in the day about one of the books she has illustrated, When Titus took the Train.

The panel was chaired by the Blue Peter presenter Barney Harwood. After the question and answer session we were able to get our books signed and Joe was so excited about getting Barney's autograph and having a photo taken with him. I think that was the quietest he was all day.

After getting Barney's, Candy's and Sarah's autograph, we went back downstairs to have another look around and to finish the The What on Earth? Wallbook quiz. When we had finished Christopher marked it and Joe got 20 out of 20. Christopher Lloyd told him he was a genius. I knew that all ready. :)

We were going to have a picnic but, unfortunately it was raining. So, we walked back to the railway station and decided to eat our picnic on the train home. It was a lovely way to spend Mother's Day and it was brilliant to be able to spend quality time with my youngest son.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Miri's Book Launch

Yesterday, I visited the Owl Bookshop, Kentish Town for the launch of Miriam Halahmy's young adult novel, Hidden, published by Meadowside Books. It is also available for the Kindle.

Hidden is the first in a trilogy set on Hayling Island. It is about a fourteen year old girl called, Alix, who hides an injured illegal immigrant and all the complications that entails. Alix has never really thought about asylum seekers before as she has a whole load of her own teenage problems to worry about. But, now she is confronted by the... 'international politics of war, terrorism and refugees.'

Miriam has tackled this gritty subject with empathy and expertise. Get a copy and read it, I know you will be impressed. I was lucky enough to read a first draft and  was drawn in from the start and everyone knows that if I'm not hooked by the first few pages I will not bother reading the book. I can't wait to find out what changes were made before it reached the final version in the book.

Here is Miriam at her launch talking to her agent Eve White. That is my copy of the book she is about to sign on the table.

Miriam also writes poetry and runs creative writing classes in London. You can find out more about her and her books on her website:

Friday, March 18, 2011

100+ Fun Ideas for Science Investigations

The other day, I had a little rant about one of the sad things that had been drawn to my attention by signing up to Google Alerts. Today, I thought I should let you know about one of the good things.

One of my publishers, Brilliant Publications, has set up a lovely website where they publicise their books. Each day they post a teaching activity from one of the books they publish, to give you a flavour of the book.

Well, I was very pleased to find out that one of my ideas was used for their Activity of the Day. It was actually the second activity they posted and was from my book 100+ Fun Ideas for Science Investigations.

The activity is to investigate, 'How can you make your shadow bigger?' and is linked to Physical Processes in Science (Ages 9–11). The book contains lots of practical and fun experiments that can be easily carried out in the classroom and help to developp the children's skills of scientific enquiry.

But, don't take my word for it. Go check it out for yourself.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Literacy Teacher Training Handbook

Now, some of you know all ready how I spend hours seaching for myself on the web. Yes, I do! And I have mentioned that I have set up Google Alerts for my name so if anyone writes about me I get sent an email with the link so I can go check it out.

Sometimes this brings up things that make me sad, like the bad review I got for my book, The Literacy Teacher Training Handbook on Amazon. It's really mean. :(

This is one of the books I am most proud of writing. It covers the whole of the Primary Literacy Framework suggesting three or more activities for each of the learning objectives from Year One to Year Six. It is jam packed full of ideas and I would highly recommend it to new teachers, highly-experienced, supply teachers, learning support assistants and I would also recommend it to anyone who needs an idea for a school visit activity.

There are ideas for drama, reading, writing, speaking and listening and working creatively in groups.

I think it is a brilliant book, even if I did write it myself. In fact, it is the book I wished I'd had when I was still teaching full-time.

OK, rant over! Go have a look at it for yourself and make up your own mind what you think.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Voice and Viewpoint

At the last SCBWI Professional Series meeting, Elizabeth Hawkins talked about Voice and Viewpoint. Using manuscripts volunteered by those attending, she demonstrated how a story could be told in a different way by changing the voice and the viewpoint. 

Every writer has to make their own choice. It does depend on the book. No matter what the viewpoint you have to bear in mind the question: 'Is that my character speaking, or is it me?'

By changing a text into the present tense she showed us how it could be more immediate. We were able to compare this to a more traditional narrator style viewpoint. It was good to see how it subtly changed the feel of the story. The present tense is fashionable at the moment but, very tricky to bring off. 

Elizabeth explained that in an action-packed writing scene it is easier to use third person, as there is not so much reflection and interpretation to stop the flow of the action. The reflection requires prior knowledge of what is going on and tells the reader how they should feel about this. We need to avoid telling the reader what to think. A tighter viewpoint helps the reader to see and feel the action. The actions needs to go at the speed of the character - seeing what they see, in the order it happens. Strangely, the third person, even if it is written in the past tense gives the experience of reading it as it happens. In intense danger scenes, a tighter viewpoint adds more tension but, you can pull back this tension in other scenes to let the reader reflect.

With viewpoint it is better not to be original but, to let your story do the talking. A lot of teenage books are written in first person. When writing in the first person and present tense you have to consider how much you are supposed to know at any one time.

The omniscient narrator, such as the Victorian, 'My dear reader', can work in a different way. However, if you talk to the reader you distance them. The omniscient narrator where you don't even change scenes to change viewpoint can suit a big saga. But, it is important to make sure the character is mentioned before you change viewpoint.

Back-story can slow the pace. When adding back-story, the writer needs to seriously consider if it is really needed. It slows the tension and you may find you do not need all the detail. Ask yourself why you are putting it in, as it losses the ability to catch the reader early on. It is better to take out this narrator intrusion.

It is good to experiment with viewpoint within a story. Keep in mind it is the book we are really concerned about. What makes it great is the hard draft of the writing. You can read a book and not remember what person it is written in - it is the essence of the story you remember. You can do anything as long as your reader like it. Elizabeth suggested we ask the children what they prefer to read.

Elizabeth had many little gems of wisdom, which she conveyed to us during her talk Last week. Many of them I have included in my write-up. One of my favourites was: 'Write what is right for you, as you will write well what you like writing.'

Monday, March 14, 2011

Authors for Japan

I was shocked and deeply saddened by the terrible events in Japan and the thousands of deaths that occured. It certainly does put my own problems into perspective. These poor people, just carrying out their normal daily routines one second and then disaster strikes. Life will never be the same. If, like me, you were wondering what you could do to help, I recommend you all take a look at this website - Authors for Japan

A whole load of authors have offered dedications, tutoring, sets of books and lots of other goodies to the highest bidders to raise money to help the people devastated by the earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Bidding starts tomorrow, Tuesday 15th March, at 8am GMT and ends at 10pm GMT on Friday 18th March. The bidder who has made the highest bid in UK Pounds, will be notified by email and sent instructions on how to make their donations to the British Red Cross Japan Tsunami Appeal.

It is the least we can do.

Friday, March 04, 2011

How to Turn a Sheep into a Dragon

As part of my youngest son's homework for World Book Day, he had to make a model of a fairytale adventure. He made up his own. It consisted of a castle in a shoebox made from card and toilet rolls and a lot of orange crepe paper where it was burning down. He then came and asked me for a dragon to put in it.

Unfortunately, I did not have any dragons. Why not? I'm not quite sure. Every mother should have a stock of miniture dragons handy just in case of emergencies. However, what I did have was a rather cute selection of sheep, which I had knitted after, Sarah McIntyre's, Vern and Lettuce book launch. See post: Vern and Lettuce.

So, I added some wings and a tail and hey presto... I turned a sheep into a dragon.

Here is the dragon in its habitat. I hope you like it.

What has this got to do with writing for children?

Well... because I liked the title so much, I have spent the day writing a picture book text called 'How to Turn a Sheep into a Dragon' - it is all about a sheep who wants to be a dragon and the crazy things it gets up to on its quest. It needs a bit of editing but, I hope to send it to a publisher sometime soon.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

World Book Day

Today is World Book Day.

My youngest son was supposed to dress up as a book character for school but, he refused. Apparently, he discussed it with his friends and none of them were dressing up. I did suggest slipping the Peter Pan hat into his bag and he could put it on if he changed his mind. But, NO! He did not want to. Not even, if I dressed up as Wendy and wore my night clothes all day.

To celebrate World Book Day I decided to post this video sent to me by Philip Steele from NIbWeb. It demonstrates what happens to a book when it is taken over by infographics. It made me laugh, anyway.

I thought it was rather clever and not just because it has a VW Type 2 campervan in it. Take a look and let me know what you think.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Win a masterclass with Melvin Burgess

Tracy Ann Baines reported today on her excellent blog, Tall Tales and Short Stories that Save the Children have teamed up with the best-selling author Melvin Burgess to launch a blogging conference where you can win a place on a masterclass run by Melvin Burgess himself. He writes brilliantly controversial teen-fiction such as: Bloodtide, Bloodsong, Nicolas Dane and Junk.

There are eight places to be won. All you have to do is attend the conference and write a blog post saying what you were born to do and why. The competition is open to all bloggers of all ages and genres.

The conference is being held at the Save the Children Head Office, St Johns Lane, London, EC1M 4AR on Saturday 26th February at 9.30am - 4pm.

To find out more details take a look at Are You Born to Write or, No Child Born To Die.

You can also create a Twibbon, like the one below, to express your support.

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Anita the Artist

For Christmas, my sister bought me a beautiful sketch book and a set of Derwent Graphic sketching pencils. I have never drawn before - not really! OK! I've drawn a couple of pencil sketches to support features I've written that have been published in small press magazines! You can see them on my website in the photogallery. But, I've never had any training and I've never just drawn for fun. Sitting down and sketching for fun is something I've always wanted to try.

This is why, I decided to go to the SCBWI London Sketch Crawl at the Museum of Childhood at Bethnal Green. The museum has the largest collection of toys, dolls, doll's houses and games in the world. I met up with fellow SCBWI members and professional illustrators, Anne-Marie Perks, Clare Tovey and Bridget Strevens. We spent a few hours in the morning sketching the artefacts.

Here are the results of my little dabble at being an artist for a day. I have also posted photographs of the things I drew so you could see how close I got to the originals.

I found it was a case of drawing what you see. I tried to put the lines in the right place. Here you can see I changed the wing and the back rudder. I did this on purpose because I thought it didn't look right the way I had originally drawn it. I couldn't work out how to get the lines to look like a wing, so I made up my own.

The picture of the rocking horse took me nearly an hour to draw. I had decided before I went I was going to draw a rocking horse and I was determined to do it. I had also decided before I went (as I knew I was going to go to a toy museum) that I wanted to draw some teddy bears. Here is the result:

The last drawing I did was of a big red train:

As you can see, I had a few problems with the perspective with this one. The angle at the front is different to the angle at the back. I had been sitting still for quite a long time at this point and I moved half way through the drawing and then I couldn't get it right. It was also lunch time. I had arranged to meet up with the others for lunch and I was getting hungry so I did not really have time to fix it. It was quite apparent to me though I have no real understanding of perspective. I have so much to learn.

Here we all are with our drawings after we had eaten:

It was a great day out. It was a pity I couldn't stay longer but, I had to get home.

I recommend attending a sketch crawl yourself. SCBWI organise several across the UK.You may surprise yourself with your results. I certainly did!!!

Anyway, I hope you like my drawings. Please feel free to comment and give me advice.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Guess what?

I just found out there is a Stats Tab for my blog. People do read my blog after all. I am not writing into a vacuum.

Blogger has worked out how many hits I get for each post and which month my blog was the busiest. This is kind of cool. I found out the post with the most hits is: Agents who accept picture book authors. It has had 827 page views. Most of the hits came from the US. It was written on 15 Jul 2007. Not sure if I should mention or not, the information contained in this post is very out-of-date. For more up-to-date info I recommend you check out the most recent Children's Writers' Artists' Yearbook .

The next most read posts in order are:
This is quite interesting as they are all about writing forums. I think this tells us a lot. Maybe most writers are like me and try to combat the feeling of isolation by joining networking groups?

Even so, the fact my blog is fairly quiet is kind of reassuring, as I am less likely to be making a total fool of myself on a world wide scale. I have a nice select group of readers. Thank you. J

But, the best thing I found out was that I had 165 people attend my Virtual Book Launch last September. This made me very happy. I am hoping to have another virtual book launch very soon, as I have a few books coming out this year.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What are you afraid of?

Today I read a post by the amazing Teresa Ashby on her blog, A Likely Story. She compares her initial reactions to a rejection letter and then explains what it really means. Read her post at: What do rejection letters really mean?

When I was submitting short stories to the women's national magazines, Teresa use to astound me by how many she wrote and got published. I'd never have believed she got a rejection letter if I hadn't have read it for myself. I honestly thought every story she wrote was so brilliant it automatically got published.

Now, I had a little success in getting my stories published in these national magazines but, came to a grinding halt when I realised all the stories I got in were about people dying in car crashes. Hmmmm! Weird! Talk about writing out the pain. I had quite a few rejection letters for my short stories and use to keep them all in a big blue ring-binder. My wonderful friend Lynne Hackles has told me to throw this file away as it is bad karma. But, I am unable to part with it and I've hidden it in my library in the attic. My reaction to these rejection letters was exactly as Teresa described. Almost word-to-word!

I have had less rejections for my children's writing but the statistics have been manipulated - partly because most of it has been commissioned and partly because I work on the theory you can't get rejected if you don't send it out.

Anyway, Teresa has helped me a little. Maybe I will dust off my children's fiction and start sending it to publishers and maybe I will think about it for a little bit.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Egmont UK

Yesterday, I went to the first of the SCBWI Professional Series events. I’ve signed up to the whole series, partly because the speakers this year all look amazing and I wouldn’t want to miss them and partly because I get to see all my friends for the first time this year. As you can imagine, I was very excited. I don’t think I stopped talking all evening.

It was an amazing event. Ali Dougal and Peter Marley from Egmont came to speak to us about what they were looking for and the Egmont submission process. Where else could you get this first-hand knowledge? Egmont is the biggest children’s publisher in the UK and one of the only ones left that will still accept unsolicited manuscripts. You can send your manuscripts to:

For more on what they are looking for and the submission process read my post at:

I took my camera along to take a picture especially for my blog. I even sat In the front row so I would not have the backs of people’s heads in my photo. But... I forgot to take the picture. So, I am posting one of the covers for my new series of books due out in March this year instead. It was either that or another picture of me.

I think you will all agree this book cover is well worth looking at ;) and there have been way too many photos of me posted for one month all ready. I suppose I could have posted another picture of Steve Cole or Sarah McIntyre at the Just Imagine event and I would have done if they could balance on one hand and do the splits. :D

Anyway, I thought it was very interesting Egmont is expanding their digital list. Nationwide digital is growing and the number of products available on the market is increasing slowly but will soon explode. It is an area to be aware of. In 2009, they launched Flips for the Nintendo DS, which is an enhanced e-book. In 2010, they launched a standard e-book list of classic titles. Everything brand new at Egmont will be published in e-book and traditional format. This was an eye-opener.

In late 2010, they launched their first picture book app, Charlie Stinky Socks for the i-pad. It displays pictures, narration, animation and interactivity. It is a financial investment but, they do not know how many they will sell. It is early days yet.

The Bookseller did a survey about people’s opinions on e-books. They reckon Digital may "overtake" print sales by 2014.

For a much more detailed write-up on the event see: Tina Lemon’s –  A Novel Way.

Monday, January 24, 2011

An Interview with Anita Loughrey

Doesn't that sound cool! Yes, I did a real interview and it's on the World Wide Web for everyone to read.

I've never been interviewed before. It was rather fun and made me realise what I put other authors through when I interview them for my column in Writers' Forum. LOL!

You can read the interview on Tracy Ann Baines' fantastic blog: Tall Tales and Short Stories. Tracy interviews loads and loads of famous writers who have won millions of prestigous awards. It feels kind of grand to have my name included with them.

The timetabling idea started after I did Simon Whaley's fantastic time-management course at the Caerleon Writers' Holiday. It was all about how to be a productive writer. It must be working because I wrote 17 books last year. Thank you Simon.

Anyway, here is the link to the interview: Writing Non-Fiction for Children: An Interview with Anita Loughrey.